AGM 2017 and Is Society Ready for Driverless Cars?

Driverless Cars

The 2017 Annual General Meeting for BCS Mid-Wales will be held on Thursday 5th October. This starts at 6.15pm in MP-0.15 (Physics Main) in the Physical Sciences building at Aberystwyth University. A map is available. The AGM agenda is available.

Immediately following the AGM, we are pleased to invite Prof. Martyn Thomas to talk about ‘Is Society Ready for Driverless Cars?’ An abstract and biography is available below. You may remember that Martyn came to talk about The Dilemmas of Big Data, in January 2014.

There will drinks and a light buffet available from 5.45 in the Physics Foyer, outside the room.


The event is free and open to all. Please register to attend at eventbrite.

Is Society Ready for Driverless Cars?

A lecture by Martyn Thomas CBE FREng

The amount of automation in cars has been steadily increasing for decades—early examples include anti-lock brakes, central locking, anti-theft devices, automatic transmission, and air bags. There is no doubt that automation will lead to full autonomy in many vehicle applications, as it already has in elevators, on some rail lines and elsewhere. This lecture focuses on the progress towards full autonomy in automobiles, where there seems to be an announcement every week that fully driverless cars and lorries will be arriving soon but where there are many questions that have not yet been answered.

The UK Government has been encouraging, consulting on and facilitating the development and introduction of driverless cars (autonomous vehicles or AVs) and in February 2017 published a draft Bill to legislate for their compulsory insurance. These documents show that the Government expects AVs to be introduced in the UK in “five to ten years” – that is, between 2022 and 2027. Meanwhile, car manufacturers have introduced or announced cars that can drive themselves, and it seems certain that many cars will be driving themselves on UK roads with limited or no human supervision, well before 2027.

This lecture explores what needs to be done to make the development and use of driverless cars possible, safe and of overall benefit to society. The lecture covers

  • Levels of Automation
  • Plans and Timescales
  • The Social Benefits that driverless Cars might bring
  • The Social Problems that Driverless Cars might bring
  • How Safe is Safe Enough?
  • How Safe are Human Drivers on UK Roads?
  • Technology related issues to be overcome
  • Transition to Driverless Cars: should human drivers be banned?
  • Conclusions

Martyn Thomas

Martyn is Professor of Information Technology at Gresham College in London and a visiting professor at the University of Aberystwyth. He has almost 50 years experience in the computer industry and working with university research groups. He is a Board Member of the Health and Safety Executive and a former director of the Serious Organised Crime Agency.

Show & Tell – September 2017

The next event will be a Show & Tell, held with the Aberystwyth Computer Science Department. This will be on Friday 29th September, from 6.15pm. These have been very popular and offer short talks and the opportunity to see some exhibits of technical projects or interesting technical ideas.

The event is free and open to all. There will be some drinks and pizza at the break.

If you haven’t been to a Show and Tell event before, you can see some details at

If you have something that you would like to show or tell us about at the event, please complete the Google Form to give us some information. We can then make a selection from the different items we receive and plan the order.

If you would like to just come along and watch, please tell us using the eventbrite form at

Creating Robots That Care – Karen Spärck Jones Lecture 2017

BCS Mid-Wales and Aberystwyth University are delighted to invite you to our Karen Spärck Jones broadcast event, in which we’ll stream the showcase lecture, Creating Robots that Care, and provide opportunity for networking before and after the event. This will be held in Physical Sciences building at Aberystwyth University.

To honour the pioneering work of Karen Spärck Jones the BCS holds a distinguished lecture in her name each year, celebrating a prominent female computing researcher. This is aimed at a wide general audience: we welcome all ages and levels of computing experience. This lecture will be delivered by Dr Maja Matarić and will be streamed live at Aberystwyth University.

The talk is from 6:00 – 7:30pm – Creating Robots that Care Lecture – Dr Maja Matarić – Thursday 25th May 2017.

Light refreshments are available from 5.30 outside the lecture room.

The main information site for the talk is

Book your place

The event is free and open to everyone. To reserve your free place, please book for the Aberystwyth Venue at Eventbrite.


How can human-robot interaction be improved by making robots more socially intelligent? This is the key question at the heart of socially assistive robotics (SAR): a new field of intelligent robotics that focuses on developing machines capable of assisting users through social rather than physical interaction, in order to encourage people to have the drive and motivation to do their own work, for improved health and wellness. Our research brings together engineering, health sciences, neuroscience, social, developmental, and cognitive sciences to create robots that can serve as coaches, motivators, and companions. This requires personalising human-robot interaction through appropriate speech, gesture, and body language; the embodiment is the most important even without physical work. Our successes include coaching stroke patients to perform rehabilitation activities, helping children with autism to learn social skills, encouraging teens at risk for type-2 diabetes to exercise, motivating first graders to make healthy food choices, and helping elderly patients with Alzheimer’s disease to stay engaged.

This talk will describe those projects and the associated research into embodiment, modelling and steering of social dynamics, and long-term user adaptation for SAR, illustrated with many videos.

Dr Matarić

Dr Maja Matarić is the Professor and Chan Soon-Shiong Chair of Computer Science, Neuroscience & Pediatrics; Founding Director at the USC’s Robotics and Autonomous Systems Center; and Director of the USC’s Robotics Research Lab.

IT Project Success and the Role of BCS

We are pleased to invite Ray Long to talk to us about IT Project Success and the Role of BCS. Ray says that it is a mixture of presentation and discussion and promises to be an interesting session. Ray is joining us fresh from his year as President for BCS.

Drawing on his own IT career and history with the BCS, Immediate Past-President Ray Long will lead a discussion on the theme for his Presidential year of driving up the success rate of IT projects and what BCS can do to support this, considering where the Institute has come from, how it is currently positioning itself to take the lead in making IT good for society, and how it should develop during the years ahead. Ray will consider our current strategy, challenges and areas of interest – as the BCS celebrates its 60th anniversary, please come prepared not just to listen, but also to make your views known, as we debate the issues which will determine the success of our next 60 years and beyond in contributing to IT project success as well as other areas.

The session is open to everyone and it is free.

We hope you are able to join us at 6pm on Monday 8th May, with refreshments available from 5.30pm in the Physical Sciences foyer at Aberystwyth University. For location, please see–?m=

Speaker Profile: Ray Long joined the UK Senior Civil Service when moving to the Department of Health in 1977, before his appointment as IT Director at the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions in 1999. He became CEO of the Northern Ireland Business Development Service in 2004 before serving as Programme Director for the nationwide NHS Choose and Book service and Major Projects Director in the Cabinet Office. He joined HMRC as Director of Business Tax Change in 2011, before becoming Director of Corporate Services Change in 2013. In 2014 he joined the Department for Work and Pensions, initially with responsibility for that Department’s Infrastructure Modernisation Programme, more recently as Director of Technology Platforms, and now as CEO of Benefits and Pensions Digital Technology Services Ltd, the Government-owned company established to insource IT applications development, maintenance and support services. Ray has also been an Associate Lecturer with The Open University since 1993, delivering programmes of leadership and strategy in the UK and internationally. A Chartered Director, Engineer and IT Professional, he is a graduate of the Government’s Major Projects Leadership Academy and a Warden of the IT City Livery Company.

IoT – Context and Challenges

We are pleased to welcome Bob Crooks MBE to talk about ‘IoT – Context and Challenges’. This will be at a meeting on Monday 3rd April, from 6.10pm in MP-0.11 (Physics A) in the Physical Sciences building. There will be refreshments available from 5.30pm in the foyer outside the lecture room.

The event is free and open to everyone.


The BCS Green IT Specialist Group is taking forward an initiative to raise awareness of the Internet of Things and the issues this new technology raises. Last year we developed a demonstrator for the IoT using simple and cheap technologies including sensors and Arduino and Raspberry PI processors, typically available through retail outlets such as Maplin. We have now worked with a small team at Leeds Beckett University to produce a 45 min video of that demonstrator and to explore the wider context and challenges presented by the IoT. I will provide some background on IoT, run the video and then lead a discussion about IoT its impacts, opportunities and challenges.


Bob obtained his Masters from the London School of Economics in 1981. Since then, he has been involved in all aspects of the IT profession including project management, software development, systems analysis and design, and training. Has also successfully led the procurement and implementation of fishing vessel tracking and reporting systems for the UK Fisheries Departments as well as a Commission technical working party that created the European standards for position reporting of fishing vessels.

He is currently working for the UK’s Department for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) where he is the lead for Sustainable and Innovative use of ICT. In this role he has taken forward a programme of work with suppliers to reduce the department’s ICT footprint including initiatives on:

  • Footprint reporting
  • Print management
  • Server room energy efficiency measures
  • Use of ICT tools to help Defra achieve its Greening Government Commitment targets, including implementing audio, web and video conferencing.

Bob chairs the British Computer Society’s (BCS) Green ICT Specialist Group which promotes Green ICT practices across its membership of some 1,400 ICT professionals. He is a member of the Association of Project Managers (APM) as well as a BCS Chartered ICT professional. He is also a recognised by the European Commission as a national expert on Sustainable ICT being a member of the current EMAS ICT sector working group.

Andrew Booth: a forgotten computer pioneer

Andrew Booth
Andrew Booth

We are pleased to welcome Roger Johnson, former President of the British Computer Society, to talk about Andrew Booth, a forgotten computer pioneer. The meeting is on Thursday 30th March. This starts at 6.10pm in MP-0.10 in the Physical Sciences building. There will be light refreshments available from 5.30pm in the foyer outside the lecture theatre.

The event is free and open to everyone.


Andrew Booth (1918-2009) founded the Department of Numerical Automation at Birkbeck, later to become the Department of Computer Science. His main claims to fame were that he was the first person to connect a rotating storage device to a computer successfully (he tried to build a disk but ended up with the first operational drum store); he was the father of the UK’s first volume selling commercial computer (the ICT1200, which sold over 100 examples worldwide between 1957 and 1963); he was a pioneer in natural language processing; and, probably most notably, devised the Booth multiplier, in a teashop in central London, which is now used in billions of chips each year. He left Birkbeck in 1961 and emigrated to Canada, where he disappeared from Computing history but rose to become President of Lakehead University in northern Ontario, from 1972 to 1978.


Roger Johnson
Roger Johnson

Roger Johnson graduated from Aberystwyth University in 1969, with a BSc in Mathematics and Statistics. He started his PhD research in Aberystwyth but, when his supervisor Dr Peter King left Aberystwyth to take up the chair of Computing at Birkbeck College, he followed him and completed his PhD there. After some years in the IT industry, he returned to Birkbeck, where he was Dean of the Faculty of Social Science (of which the Computing Department is a part) from 1987 until his retirement in 2010.  He has served terms as President of the British Computer Society and President of the Council of European Professional Informatics Societies, as well holding the office of Honorary Secretary of the International Federation for Information Processing from 1994 to 2010.

2017 Turing Lecture

Dr Banavar Picture

The 2017 Turing Lecture will take place in London, Cardiff, Dublin and Belfast on 20-23 February 2017. In Aberystwyth, we are hosting a live-stream of the London event.

This meeting will be on Monday 20th February in MP-0.11 (Physics A), Physical Sciences Building, Aberystwyth University; view this on Open Street Map. The talk starts at 6.00pm.

The event is free and open to everyone.

The talk is designed to inspire the next generation of IT professionals and will explore the cognitive computing revolution. It will be delivered by Dr Banavar, VP of Cognitive Computing at IBM Research.

‘The talk is going to be about the cognitive computing era,’ says Dr Banavar, addressing the topic of his lecture. ‘Over the past few years,’ he explains, ‘we’ve witnessed the establishment of a new era in computing – the age of machine learning. And, as we move into this new age, the resulting technical, professional and societal changes will be profound.’

Rounding off his summary, Dr Banavar says: ‘It means having a very different relationship with machines. We’ll need to start getting used to having machines with us, to having natural interactions with them, and get used to the idea that they’ll be doing a lot of tasks in every part of our lives.’

For further information about the Turing Lecture, please see the BCS Website.

The Ways of the Wicked World: Five cases in computer ethics.

We are pleased to invite Olwen Morgan to present a talk entitled “The Ways of the Wicked World: Five cases in computer ethics.”

This meeting will be on Monday 6th February in Physics A, Physical Sciences Building, Aberystwyth University; view this on Open Street Map. The talk starts at 6.00pm.

The event is free and open to everyone.


Aimed at final year undergraduates as well as those preparing for periods in industry, this talk describes situations from the author’s career in which ethical professional decisions had to be made and acted on. The cases range from resisting pressure from sales staff to dealing with a probable industrial psychopath. Each case will be described and audience members given the opportunity to contribute their own perspectives on relevant ethical issues. The intention is to make budding professionals aware of the kinds of ethical issues that can arise in their work and to identify the issues to be weighed when an firm stand must be made.


A former Aberystwyth student, Olwen Morgan has been a BCS member since 1975 and was a founder member of the BCS Formal Aspects of Computing Science specialist group (BCS-FACS). She has been an independent consulting software engineer for over 30 years and has specialised in critical systems for most of that time. Her work has spanned the aerospace, nuclear, telecommunications, medical, railway, industrial safety and automotive sectors and she is the original author of the MISRA C coding guidelines for critical systems. In a career of over forty years she has worked on all stages of the systems engineering lifecycle covering specialities ranging from formal specification to technical translation. She has served on BCS committees and has represented BSI at international standards meetings both as Principal UK Expert and Head of Delegation.

Informal Social Event

BCS Mid Wales are coming to the end of another busy year of events. We have had 8 talks (including our most popular ever, Mark Baldwin, with around 250 attendees) and two very popular Show and Tell sessions.

We have decided to round off the year with an informal social event on Thursday 8th December from 7pm. This will be at Brynamlwg Bar, which is at Aberystwyth University. Entrance from the road at the top of the University – see Map. A warm welcome to everyone.

Decoding squeaks and whistles, the secrets of digital radio systems

We are pleased to invite Colin Sauze to talk about “Decoding squeaks and whistles, the secrets of digital radio systems.”

This meeting will be on Wednesday 7th December in Physics B, Physical Sciences Building, Aberystwyth University; view this on Open Street Map. The talk starts at 6.00pm. There will be refreshments available from 5.30pm in the Physics Foyer, outside Physics B.

Please secure your place by getting a free ticket on Eventbrite.

The event is free and open to everyone.

From wireless door bells and car key fobs to bluetooth/wifi to mobile phones, digital radio systems are key to much of our daily lives. Yet to most people they remain almost magic devices that transfer data through the air. This talk aims to demystify some of the principles
behind digital radio systems, reveal some of their history and show how you can listen to and decode their signals. There will also be a series of demonstrations using amateur radio equipment and software defined radio receivers.

Colin currently works as the Data Manager at the National Plant Phenomics Centre in IBERS. He studied for a PhD on power management in autonomous sailing robots at Aberystwyth between 2006 and 2011. After completing his PhD he worked as a postdoctoral robotic researcher and academic liaison officer for Software Alliance Wales in the Computer Science Department. Over the last two years he has developed an interest in amateur radio and is a fully licensed radio amateur.